78% in an independent poll said build Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill
(source: Saddleworth School Poll on Saddleworth News)
90% of those asked are signing our door to door petition
Over 3000 people have signed a door to door petition asking for the EFA and OMBC to build new Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill and it's growing
Come and JOIN THEM
Judicial Review Facts
The court was being asked whether the process followed by Oldham Council in reaching its decision to grant planning permission to build a new Saddleworth School in Diggle was lawful.
The court has said clearly and unequivocally that it was unlawful.
Accordingly, the court has quashed the decision and the Council will now have to look at the matter again. The reason for the court's judgement is that when making their decision councillors were not given the opportunity to consider whether the school would be better placed on the Uppermill site.
The decision was based not just "on a technicality", as others are now suggesting in the media, but on a serious breach of planning law.
The long held SDAG argument that the Uppermill site is a viable alternative which would attract the EFA's full funding and that both the EFA's and Oldham Council's site selection processes were seriously flawed has been UPHELD by the judge and in turn must now be acknowledged by Oldham Council.
Have Councillors been misled?
On the 9th March 2017, Councillors Garth Harkness, Derek Heffernan and John McCann published their letter to Oldham Council. It highlighted the media reports from the judical review stating "The court heard the council accepted that redeveloping the school on its existing site, whilst a more expensive option, would be 'viable and affordable'". As this statement implied that this "contradicts every single briefing I and my colleagues have ever received from Oldham Council and others" they were asking whether counillors been misled by Oldham Council officers. [Full letter from Councillors Garth Harkness, Derek Heffernan and John McCann]
The facts presented by SDAG to Councillors
On the 5th April 2017, Mrs Samantha Marshall, a Diggle resident who had previously met with the EFA and provided witness statements for the judicial review hearing of this meeting, replied directly to Councillors Garth Harkness, Derek Heffernan and John McCann in an email. This email included a detailed letter outlining all the facts within an FAQ, together with factual documentary evidence to back up her statements. Read this letter below.
Unfortunately, even though Mrs Marshall spent considerable time answering their concerns, she has not even received an acknowledgement from any of these three Liberal Democrat Ward Councillors or the Leader of the Council, Councillor Jean Stretton.
From: Samantha Marshall
Sent: 05 April 2017 22:55
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Garth.Harkness@oldham.gov.uk
Cc: email@example.com; Keith Lucas; Robert McCracken QC
Subject: Response to your open letter to Cllr Chadderton
I write in response to your open letter in the Oldham Chronicle (03/03/2017) to Cllr Amanda Chadderton and her subsequent response in the Council Chambers (22/03/2017).
As I have met with Mr Green, Head of Capital at the EFA in January 2015 and attended the two day Judicial Review hearing in January 2017, I believe that I can answer your questions openly and transparently, outline the facts and support these with documentary evidence. Consequently, I have attached a highly detailed response with supporting evidential material which I believe answers all your concerns and questions arising from the Judicial Review decision.
I am also copying this letter to Cllr Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Keith Lucas, Chairman of SDAG and Mr Robert McCracken QC, Barrister for SDAG.
Mrs Samantha Marshall
Dear Cllr McCann, Cllr Heffernan and Cllr Harkness
I write in response to your open letter in the Oldham Chronicle (03/03/2017) to Cllr Amanda Chadderton.
You also put your questions to Cllr Chadderton at the Full Council Meeting the other week (22/03/2017) but she did not answer them. She only reiterated that the Education Funding Agency's preferred site on which to build the school was Diggle, that it was SDAG which has been giving out misleading information and that the Council is committed to providing a new school for Saddleworth.
As I have met with Mr Mike Green, Head of Capital at the EFA in January 2015 and attended the two day Judicial Review hearing in January 2017, I believe that I can answer your questions openly and transparently, outline the facts and support these with documentary evidence.
It is clear from the evidence presented at the Judicial Review hearing that the only source of verifiable facts about the whole process has come from SDAG and local residents, such as myself, who support the school being built in Uppermill. We have gathered this evidence by speaking to the EFA directly and obtaining information via Freedom of Information requests from both the EFA and Oldham Council.
The EFA has always been willing to fund a new school in Uppermill, and would still do so if either requested by Oldham Council or the current planning applications for Diggle are refused. [See the first question below for evidence] This was accepted as fact by Oldham Council during the recent Judicial Review.
Both the EFA and Oldham Council's site selection process in 2015 was inadequate: This was also accepted as fact by Oldham Council during the recent Judicial Review.
- Harm to Cultural Heritage was never assessed by either the EFA or Oldham Council as part of
the site selection process, which is an area where the Council has a statutory obligation which
requires them to have a "special regard" in preserving listed buildings and their settings.
[Section 66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990].
- Oldham Council had an incorrect opinion that the development in Diggle would create a better
setting for the listed building, [Page 28 Saddleworth School : site selection Cabinet Report –
30/03/2015] but had formed this opinion without seeking an assessment of the affect of each
option on Cultural Heritage. It was only after the February 2016 planning approval and the
legal representation from SDAG that the Council finally acknowledged that the development in
Diggle will cause substantial harm to the setting and significance of the listed building.
- Oldham Council had an incorrect opinion that the playing fields themselves were appropriate development in the Green Belt, when according to both planning case law and the National Planning Policy Framework they were not. [Mr Justice Kerr's judgment paras 117 and 120]
Oldham Council's own Conservation Officer cannot support the building of the new school in Diggle and her detailed reports have never been made public on Oldham Council's Planning Portal.
The Planning Officer's Report makes no reference to the Conservation Officer's objections to the planning applications and the Planning Committee members were not made aware of any of the details of her reports by the Planning Officer.
Objectors have only been able to obtain these reports through an FOI request, but the Council's own
Planning Committee has been left in the dark by their own Council Officers.
There also appears to be no evidence that the Conservation Officer's opinion was ever sought during Oldham Council's 2015 site selection process, as there is no mention of this fact within their Saddleworth School Site Selection Cabinet Report. One has to ask that if her opinion wasn't sought "Why not?" and if it was, "Why wasn't her opinion contained within this Cabinet Report, to guide the decision of the councillors?".
Cllr Chadderton is still misleading you and others in her recent response in the Council Chambers by not publicly acknowledging
- The major deficiencies in the site selection process by both themselves and the EFA.
- The willingness of the EFA to fund a new school in Uppermill.
- The ability of the Council to instruct the EFA to build the new school in Uppermill, regardless of the EFA's preferred option.
Had the Council Officers not blindly taken the EFA's feasibility study as a thorough comparison of the sites and had sought their own assessment of Cultural Heritage to comply with their statutory obligations, the Uppermill Playing Fields option could have been chosen back in February 2015 and a new Saddleworth School would currently be in operation now.
Even after the Judicial Review judgment, which proved that the Council has been acting unlawfully, you and other councillors are still being misled. The facts and evidence which were presented at the Judicial Review hearing are still being ignored by the Council and unreported to its elected councillors. [See detailed Q and A below]
Cllr Chadderton's recent reply in the Council Chamber implied that because the EFA's "preferred" site in Diggle was still the same after the Judicial Review, that the school must be built in Diggle, and Oldham Council is not able to influence this decision. This is not true. [See detailed Q and A below for evidence]
It is still within the Council's power to request that the planning applications be withdrawn and to call for a revisit of the now acknowledged inadequate site selection process, which should now take into account the Conservation Officer's opinion and Mr Justice Kerr's ruling that Uppermill is a viable and affordable site on which to build the school, which would avoid serious harm to Cultural Heritage and the Green Belt.What impact does the Judicial Review judgment now mean?
Mr Justice Kerr reviewed all the evidence and concluded that there was a viable alternative site for the new Saddleworth School in Uppermill, on which the EFA was willing to build and fund the new school buildings.
The Secretary of State for Education had the opportunity at the Judicial Review to challenge the statement that the EFA were willing to build in Uppermill within budget, but sought not to do so. This situation was conceded by the Council's barrister as confirmation of the integrity of the information provided by SDAG.
Mr Justice Kerr decided that the EFA and Oldham Council's site selection process was inadequate and that the harm to Cultural Heritage has never been given its proper statutory weighting by either the EFA or Oldham Council when comparing the four site options.
He ruled that the alternative site in Uppermill is a material planning consideration and the Planning Officer was acting unlawfully in directing the Planning Committee to ignore it when making their planning decision.
He agreed with SDAG that technically the playing fields on the Green Belt land should also be viewed as inappropriate development in the Green Belt, contrary to the Planning Officer's statement in paragraph 12.31 of his April 2016 report ("... the proposed outdoor sports facilities themselves are considered to be appropriate development in the Green Belt by Officers.").
He also agreed with SDAG that it was irrational to report to committee members that the existing buildings will not be used for industrial purposes, and then to report that the new school will prevent use for industrial purposes which would otherwise occur.
Mr Justice Kerr ruled that a viable alternative site was available in Uppermill, which would achieve the same public benefits of a new school in Saddleworth, and avoid both the significant harm to the listed building and the inappropriate development in the Green Belt. In his judgment he found that had this alternative site been considered, that the outcome to approve the planning applications would not necessarily have been the same. He therefore quashed the planning approvals.
A comparison of all four site options, which included the harm to Cultural Heritage, has never taken place. If Oldham Council and the EFA are determined to stick with these four planning applications in Diggle, it is now up to the members of the Council's Planning Committee to do that comparison.
As a current member of the Council's Planning Committee, Cllr McCann will know that the Council has a statutory obligation which requires them to have a "special regard" in preserving listed buildings and their settings and must under national policy resist inappropriate development in the Green Belt.The ruling of Mr Justice Kerr, which now requires members to consider the Uppermill site as a viable alternative on which the applicant can build the new Saddleworth School, requires the Planning Committee to refuse planning approval for all four planning applications requesting the demolition of the Dobcross Loom Works and listed Link Bridge, the development of the new school and associated car parking facilities in Diggle. To do otherwise would be in breach of the Council's statutory obligations.
Below are further detailed answers to your questions together with the factual evidence to back up these answers.
If you wish to discuss any aspect of this letter, SDAG would be happy to do so and I would suggest you contact Cllr Lucas to arrange a suitable time and date.
Mrs Samantha Marshall
Will the EFA "provide even more funding to cover the significant costs of building in Uppermill"?
There has always been enough funding to cover the costs of building the school on either of the two site options in Uppermill evaluated in the EFA's feasibility study. If you have been given the impression that this was not the case, by either the Council, the Planning Officer's Report for the four planning applications in Diggle or others, then I would say that you have been misled.
The EFA's funding allocation is as follows:
- A fixed funding budget for the core construction costs of the school (£19,259,834)
- A smaller funding budget for abnormals, such as ground works, piling, retaining walls, etc (£5,000,000) [Source: Amount stated by Mr Mike Green, EFA]
This is a total EFA funding budget of £24,259,834.
I know for a fact that Oldham Council was aware of this extra abnormals budget from at least August 2013. Obtained via an FOI request, attached is a letter from Ms Jane Brighouse, the then Project Director at the EFA, [EFA_Report_on_Rear_Site_and_Clocktower_at_Diggle.pdf] to Mr Darren Jones, Director of Development and Infrastructure at Oldham Council, commenting on their recent discussions at a meeting on 29th August 2013 and outlining the reasons why the EFA at the time felt that they would not build on the back Pallet Works site in Diggle. In her summary on page 4 she states:
"In summary, we feel that the specific problems associated with the construction of the school on the rear of the site and the costs in addressing them are prohibitive and, at a total possibly around £3M, far above the EFA Funding Allowance for the school (these would be in addition to any 'abnormal' costs identified by survey results in respect of which a limited EFA budget is available)"
It appears that the only reason why the EFA revisited the Diggle Pallet Works site option was after the listed building was "intentionally carved out of the site" [EFA feasibility study : Page 76 section 4.5(3)]. The EFA then neglected to assess what impact building the school in Diggle would have on any of the surrounding heritage assets, including the demolition of the collection of buildings historically associated with the listed Clock Tower Office Building and the attached listed Link Bridge, which is also given listed status by reason of its attachment.
Cllr Nikki Kirkham, Cllr Mike Buckley and Mr John Barnes (local architect) attended a meeting with the EFA on 7th July 2014 in Manchester [minutes attached EFA_Meeting_7th_July_2014.pdf] with Ms Rachel Stephenson, Deputy Director and Programme Director PSBP at the EFA and two other colleagues.
Items 17 and 18 outline the discussions over the EFA's budget for the project.
"17. The budget available for the school building will be fixed irrespective of the design chosen."
"18. Additional funds will be provided by the EFA to cover abnormals (e.g. ground preparation, levelling and demolition). These will vary depending on the site issues involved."
Cllr Keith Lucas, Cllr Nikki Kirkham, Cllr Mike Buckley and then Diggle Community Association Chairman, Stuart Coleman attended a meeting on 20th November 2014, with Mr Mike Green, Head of Capital, in the EFA's Coventry offices.
Mr Green told them that there was "no fixed budget … for the project, specific site factors will determine the final costs." He explained that abnormal costs were not considered to be part of the core construction costs as they were met from a separate budget. Mr Green said that in circumstances where the main construction costs were within the funding allocation, abnormal costs would be met up to a limit of £5,000,000.
For the two Uppermill site options the core construction costs are within their funding allocation and their abnormal costs are within their additional abnormals budget limit.
Attached is a press release statement of their visit. [EFA_Meeting_Media_Release.pdf]
I attended a meeting, together with my husband and Mr Stuart Illingworth on 16th January 2015 with Mr Mike Green, Head of Capital at the EFA in Manchester and three other colleagues, which included Ms Rachel Stephenson, to discuss with him the findings of their feasibility study prior to its publication.
Mr Green assured us that all four site options were within there overall budget and that none of them had been discounted or ruled out by their feasibility study findings for any reason (including costs, pupil disruption or safety grounds).
Mr Green stated that their preferred site option was the Diggle Pallet Works option because it was the cheapest option, but that the final decision on the location of the new school was Oldham Council's. They would be willing to build the new school on its existing site in Uppermill, should Oldham Council request them to do so.
Mr Green told us that this preferred Diggle Pallet Works option would now be taken forward to planning but at any stage of the following process Oldham Council could still request the EFA to change direction and build the school in Uppermill.
Mr Green assured us that should planning permission for the preferred Diggle Pallet Works option be refused, then focus would change to building the school on one of the two site options in Uppermill.
I attach a copy of my subsequent email sent to Mr Green minuting the main points discussed. [SM_email_to_Mike_Green_EFA.pdf]
Will the EFA "financially support the decant of students to alternative accommodation during the process"?
The EFA's feasibility study's evaluation of the two site options in Uppermill, by their school construction specialists, does not conclude that the entire school will be required to decanted off the school site during the construction process.
It concluded that the Uppermill Playing Field option only involves the initial demolition of 10 classrooms, which will be re-housed in temporary accommodation on the existing site.
This temporary accommodation is not one of the items listed as having to be paid for by Oldham Council, so is already covered by the EFA's funding.
For the Uppermill Playing Fields site option, the pupils will be entirely separate from any construction works. Pupils can be prohibited from using the main entrance road, as there are several other pedestrian access routes available to them, away from the construction area.
After the new school buildings have been built, the whole school will decant into this new accommodation and the existing school buildings will be demolished (again paid for by the EFA) and new playing fields created in their place.
The EFA's feasibility study [page 68] outlines the costs paid for by Oldham Council for this site option in Uppermill.
|"These include sums for the hire of a remote sports facility during refurbishment of the existing Sports Hall, temporary car parking at Diggle and transportation of staff from / to there"|
Won't building the school on the existing school playing field in Uppermill have a detrimental effect to the pupil's education and cause safety issues?
No. This has not been the experience of other secondary schools, which have been rebuilt and even partly refurbished on their existing sites.
The majority of new school building projects are built on their existing playing fields, whilst the school is in operation alongside, without any detrimental effect to the pupil's education and pupil safety is managed.
Wardle Academy in Rochdale, who teaches 1200 pupils, is one such example.
They experienced their best ever GCSE results during the time when 40% of their classrooms were being refurbished behind temporary plywood dividing walls, they had virtually no on-site PE facilities, no staff room, shared staff offices and new school buildings built just 2 metres away from their existing classrooms. They too had to share a main drive with the construction traffic, but it was all done successfully with good planning and good management. The noisiest construction elements were done out of term time to reduce any disruption and the teachers who were invited for on site tours told the site manager that there had been no disruption to lessons caused by the building work.
The Headteacher's December 2013 newsletter [Wardle_Academy_Dec_2013.jpg] states:
|"I would like to express my appreciation towards both the students and the staff for the way in which they have conducted themselves over the last 18 months since the bulldozers first arrived on site. Despite part of the school being demolished around us, temporary classrooms and a new school being constructed within 2 metres of us, it has been business as normal with some record GCSE results achieved by students on the way. We now move into the new school building on the 19th or 20th December. Phase 2 commences almost immediately with the demolition of the existing school, and the development of the sports facilities (to be completed by July 2014)."|
Unfortunately, Dr Graham Wright, the then Headteacher, is no longer with the school, but I am sure
that if you contacted Mr Tony Shaw, Assistant Headteacher, he would be willing to share his
experiences of managing the project from the schools' point of view.
I and my husband attended a Diggle Community Association meeting on the 14th November 2013, which was attended by Matthew Milburn and Cllr Brian Lord and are listed as being in attendance within the meeting minutes [Page 1 : DCA_November_2013_Meeting_Minutes.pdf]
When discussing the possibility of building the new school on the existing school's playing fields in Uppermill, put forward by Mr John Barnes, a local architect, as opposed to the previous plans to develop the school on the existing school buildings' footprint, Cllr Lord stated "The reasons not to build on the present site before were, too much disruption and also too expensive. With the plans suggested by John Barnes, Matthew said that he could manage and that it would not be too big a problem." [Page 3 : DCA_November_2013_Meeting_Minutes.pdf]. Matthew Milburn expressed that he just wanted a new school for the children of Saddleworth on either of the locations.
Cllr Lord also stated "OMBC say that if the plans are viable the new school will be built in Uppermill." [Page 3 : DCA_November_2013_Meeting_Minutes.pdf].
However, since that time Oldham Council have misled councillors into believing that the Uppermill site was not viable and would not attract the EFA's funding, even when there was evidence to the contrary. This was in order to justify to councillors that there was no alternative to building the new school in Diggle. One has to ask the question "Why?"
Mr Justice Kerr's recent judgment that Uppermill is a viable and affordable alternative on which to build the school, now proves that there is a suitable alternative to building the school in Diggle.
Didn't the EFA's feasibility study identify that Diggle was the "best site" for the new School?>br> Doesn't the EFA have the final decision on where the new school will be built, so it is out of Oldham Council's hands and they cannot tell the EFA to build it in Uppermill?
The EFA's feasibility study did not identify that Diggle would offer the "best site" on which to build the school, just that it would be the cheapest option of those available.
The EFA do not impose a location for the new school. The final decision on which site the school will be built rests entirely with Oldham Council. Oldham Council can tell the EFA to build the new school in Uppermill. This was confirmed at the meeting I had with Mr Mike Green, referred to earlier, when I challenged him on this specific point.
The EFA's feasibility study recommended a "preferred" site option which was made on the basis of the "option offering the best value for money" to the EFA's funding only (i.e. the cheapest option to the EFA), not the one which was the overall best site for the new school.
"This feasibility study considers the options available to address the condition need at Saddleworth School in Oldham and identifies the option that is considered to offer the best value for money to the public purse" [EFA feasibility study page 4]
"These options have then been evaluated in this Feasibility Study and a recommendation made on the option offering the best value for money to the public purse." [EFA feasibility study page 15]
Mr Mike Green, Head of Capital at the EFA, told me at the meeting of the 16th January 2015, that the "preferred" site option in Diggle was chosen on the basis of cost to the EFA. It did not take into account any of Oldham Council’s costs when making this evaluation.
The purpose of the EFA's feasibility study was never to make a thorough and robust study of all the issues for each of the four sites options and identify the "best site" for the location of the new school. However, Oldham Council has misreported to councillors and local residents that this was exactly the intention of this study.
It was accepted as fact by Oldham Council during the recent Judicial Review that both the EFA and Oldham Council's site selection processes in 2015 were inadequate.
The EFA's feasibility study only ensured that design proposals could be delivered, would meet the school's educational aspirations and the EFA's costs evaluated for each of the four site options. All four site options met this criteria. It did not include any assessment of issues which the EFA were either not responsible for, or were outside of the site option boundaries.
The consequence of this meant that there was no assessment of Cultural Heritage during the site selection process, by either the EFA or Oldham Council.
No assessment of the harm to the setting and significance of the listed Clock Tower office building or the proposed demolition of the Dobcross Loom Works buildings, which Oldham Council's Conservation Officer has determined to be local "non-designated heritage assets" in their own right and having a degree of significance which merits consideration in planning decisions.
No assessment of any access and traffic issues, or the consideration of the considerable costs to Oldham Council required to support the extra infrastructure and transport costs caused by the proposal to move the school to Diggle.
As yet there has been no comparison of all the four sites options, which considers all the issues, to determine which would be the "best site".
If we correctly give the correct weighting of harm to Cultural Heritage and the inappropriate development in the Green Belt in Diggle, then when comparing the four sites options, the two Uppermill options should be considered as better sites for the new school development than the two in Diggle.
The EFA's feasibility report then made a "recommendation" of their "preferred" site option, but Oldham Council was able to select any of the four site options on which to locate the new Saddleworth School. It was not the EFA's decision on where the school should be located.
|"The EFA does not impose a site option choice onto Oldham Council and would be happy to
build it on any of the four site options examined, if asked to do so by Oldham Council.|
The final decision on which site option the new school will be built on rests solely with Oldham Council." [SM_email_to_Mike_Green_EFA.pdf]
The power rests entirely with Oldham Council to decide on the location of the new Saddleworth School. To state otherwise is untrue and misleading.
Oldham Council must now consider their statutory obligation to have "special regard" in preserving listed buildings and their settings. [Section 66(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990]. A consideration which has never taken place when comparing the Diggle and Uppermill sites.
Oldham Council has the power to request that the planning applications be withdrawn and to revisit the now acknowledged inadequate site selection process, which should now take into account the Conservation Officer's opinion and Mr Justice Kerr's ruling that Uppermill is a viable and affordable site on which to build the school.
It is Oldham Council's choice where the new school should be located, not the EFA's.
Oldham Council has the power to tell the EFA to build the new school in Uppermill, otherwise they would be in breach of their statutory obligations.
There has been far too many delays, we need a new school as soon as possible. Won't approving the Diggle planning applications mean that we will get a school sooner than if we now refuse them and the EFA have to start again with Uppermill?
No. The Diggle site is fraught with statutory and toxic land contamination issues, whereas the Uppermill site isn't.
If you want the children of Saddleworth to be accommodated in the new school building in the shortest possible time frame, then building the school in Uppermill on the existing playing fields is the quickest possible solution.
In light of the fact that a judge has ruled that there is a viable alternative site in Uppermill on which the new school can be built, which would provide the same public benefits of a new school and avoid all harm to any listed buildings and the inappropriate development in the Green Belt, should the Diggle applications be approved again, this opens up another challenge at another Judicial Review.
The last one delayed the school by almost a year and showed that the Council acted unlawfully by approving the applications for the new school in Diggle.
The same could happen again.
At my meeting on the 16th January 2015 with Mr Mike Green of the EFA, he said that, as they had done a lot of the reports on the Uppermill site during their feasibility study, that it wouldn't be difficult, or take much more time, to produce a planning application for a site option in Uppermill.
The planning application would be straight forward. Only one planning application would be required rather than four and no Environmental Impact Assessment would be required.
It is in a location which already has an existing school on it and the highway infrastructure which supports it. There are no listed buildings, ecological, Green Belt or toxic land contamination issues from previous heavy industrial uses.
If Oldham Council decided in the next few days to tell the EFA that the new school must be built in Uppermill, a planning application could be filed and approved in a matter of months. It would be a certainty that SDAG would not challenge any planning approval and the school could start being built in Uppermill later this year.
Building the school on the existing playing fields is a two stage process. Firstly the new school building will be built, the children will move into this new building and then the existing buildings will be demolished to make way for the new playing fields.
This will mean that the teachers and children will move into the new school building in Uppermill quicker than if they had to wait for the whole of the school (buildings, playing fields, bus turnaround, highway improvements, drop off/pick up car park area etc) to be built in Diggle.
In contrast, even after further potential delays from another Judicial Review, if the school was finally approved in Diggle, the following delays and uncertainties are "highly likely" to continue to delay the building of the new school.
Even before the Dobcross Loom Works buildings can start to be demolished the following will be required:
- A bat licence must be obtained from Natural England.
- Now that Mr Justice Kerr's judgment has ruled that the alternative site in Uppermill is now a material planning consideration, the possibility of obtaining a bat licence has reduced considerably, as Natural England must take into account any available alternatives for a development when deciding to issue a bat licence.
- A full assessment of the existing land contamination must be undertaken.
- Initial findings indicated elevated levels of arsenic, lead, enzo(a)pyrene and TPH were above the residential assessment criteria on the Diggle site and that this contamination posed a risk to human health, Diggle Brook and the underlying groundwater during and after construction, as well as to future structures on the site. [Applicant's Geoenvironmental Desk Study Page 17]
- Preparation of a detailed remediation strategy to deal with any land contamination. [Applicant's Revised Environmental Statement section 9.3.43]
- Approval of the remediation strategy. [Applicant's Revised Environmental Statement section 9.3.43]
Even after the demolition of the buildings there is a likelihood that further issues will become apparent and cause further delays:
- It is possible that further contamination is present underneath the existing buildings and will only become apparent once the ground can be extensively surveyed.
- The exact route and condition of the two culverts on the site is not fully known and can only be
fully assessed once the existing buildings have been removed. [Applicant's Flood Risk
Assessment page 10]
- As these culverts are old and have not been maintained by the current owners, it is possible that additional time and costs to Oldham Council will be required to repair them prior to passing the site over to the EFA.
- As the new school buildings cannot be built over the existing culverts, the school has been
designed to be located away from an estimated route of the East West culvert. The North
South culvert has been assumed to be redundant but further investigations are required to
prove this assumption. [Applicant's Flood Risk Assessment page 11]
- Should the worse case scenario happen, that once the site is opened up and it can be fully assessed that the North South culvert is not redundant and the East West culvert actually runs underneath the planned school buildings, both culverts would then have to be moved, at a considerable cost to the Council.
The added time and cost to clean up the site and deal with any additional unknown land contamination issues and the time and costs associated with the two existing culverts, both in additional surveys, repairs and the possibility of realignment, rests with Oldham Council, not the EFA.
The Council only has the funds provided by the land swap deal for the school to be built in Diggle. Won't the Council have to fund the school in Uppermill from their own capital reserves?
Within the Council's recent budget reports to Cabinet (February 2017), it has now been acknowledged that the funds to be received from the land swap deal for the school to be built in Diggle, are not sufficient enough to cover all the costs to which Oldham Council is committed to in supporting the move to Diggle.
This previously perceived cost benefit to Oldham Council for building the school in Diggle is no longer valid. Oldham Council has seriously underestimated the money required to move the school to Diggle.
It now means that extra funds from Oldham Council's capital reserves will be required, no matter which location the school is now built upon.
Should the Council push ahead with the move to Diggle they have agreed to fund the unknown areas of the whole project – demolition, site remediation and ground preparation.
Given the unknown nature of these costs at the outset, they are the ones most likely to spiral out of control.
It is now apparent that the costs to support the school move to Diggle have already gone above and beyond what was initially anticipated when the site selection process was undertaken.
By contrast, the Council would have certainty over the amount of costs they have committed to in supporting the school to be built in Uppermill. Their commitment is minimal : "the hire of a remote sports facility during refurbishment of the existing Sports Hall, temporary car parking at Diggle and transportation of staff from / to there." [EFA's feasibility study - page 68]. The demolition and ground preparation works in Uppermill will be entirely funded by the EFA.
The Council could well be seen as reckless with its finances if it now takes on the uncertainty of the rising costs associated with Diggle, when they can still choose a much more certain route in requesting the school be built in Uppermill.
The Appendix 1 document [5 b Appendix 1 Capital Strategy 2017-21 Report – Cabinet.pdf] to the main Capital Strategy 2017/18 to 2020/21 cabinet report dated 20th February 2017 [Capital Strategy and Capital Programme 201718 to 202021.pdf], which details their now anticipated shortfall in the Saddleworth School funding.
Appendix 1 document [5 b Appendix 1 Capital Strategy 2017-21 Report – Cabinet.pdf]
e) Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) - The preferred site for Saddleworth School was announced in January 2015, with an anticipated opening in early 2018. Whilst the building of the new school is subject to a Judicial Review, the Council has earmarked a total of £2.019m of resources to support the programme; however current forecasts suggest this may not be sufficient to fully deliver the scheme. Additional funding will be prioritised.
Pages 32 to 33
i) Priority Schools Building Programme – Saddleworth School
On 19 January 2015 The Secretary of State for Education announced the preferred site for the school. However, the school project is subject to a Judicial Review and therefore there can be no progress until the Review findings have been announced. The Council has earmarked a total of £2.019m of resources to support the completion of the replacement school. Of this sum, £1.667m has been profiled into 2017/18, pending the outcome of the Review. Current projections forecast that the resource allocated may not be sufficient to deliver the support needs currently identified. Additional resources will be prioritised as appropriate.
If the existing planning applications for Diggle are refused (due to the significant harm to the listed Clock Tower office building, less than significant harm to the other listed buildings in the area and inappropriate development in the Green Belt), will this mean Saddleworth will not get a new school?
Oldham Council has misled councillors and the residents into believing that the EFA would only build and fund a new school in Diggle.
However, the evidence, which was presented at the Judicial Review, shows that the EFA are willing to build and fund a new school in Uppermill and have never discounted or ruled out this option as unsuitable or above their budget.
If the current planning applications for the school in Diggle are refused, then the EFA will resubmit a new planning application to built the new Saddleworth School in Uppermill.
Mr Mike Green of the EFA told me that should the planning applications for their preferred site in Diggle be refused then focus would change to building the school on one of the two site options in Uppermill. [See SM_email_to_Mike_Green_EFA.pdf]
Mr Justice Kerr's judgment proves that the evidence he reviewed shows that the Uppermill site is a viable alternative site on which the EFA are willing to build and fund a new school. This was the basis on which he quashed the approval of the current planning applications.